for National Geographic News
A thousand-year-old Book of Psalms has been discovered by a construction worker in a bog in Ireland.
The eagle-eyed worker was using a backhoe to dig up potting soil in central Ireland last week when he spotted the leather-bound book.
Experts called to the site were amazed to find an ancient Psalter Book of Psalms lying in the mud. The archaeologists won't say exactly where the book was found until they are finished investigating the site.
About 20 pages long and written in Latin, the book has been dated to between A.D. 800 and 1000.
It is the first early medieval text to be discovered in Ireland in 200 years, the archaeologists say.
The book was found open, perhaps rather portentously, to Psalm 83, in which God hears of nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.
(Read update: "Newfound Book of Psalms Doesn't Predict Doom, Experts Say" [July 27, 2006].)
Experts are hailing this as one of the greatest finds in Ireland in recent history.
"It is not so much the fragments themselves but what they represent that is of such staggering importance," said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, in a statement.
"In my wildest hopes, I could only have dreamed of a discovery as fragile and rare as this. It testifies to the incredible richness of the Early Christian civilization of this island and to the greatness of ancient Ireland."
No one knows how this precious book ended up in a peat bog. But the damp, acidic environment appears to have helped preserve the document, experts say.
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